People-First Business: How We Make Decisions at Agape Red
The key to business success: Treat your customers well and offer valuable products/services.
I know what you’re thinking, that isn’t secret advice. It isn’t really even helpful. Running a business is complicated, sometimes the ‘right’ decisions for a customer are different than the ‘right’ decisions for a company. Sometimes leaders and employees make mistakes. And despite the rhetoric, sometimes the customer isn’t always right.
Unfortunately, there is no carbon-copy guide to running the perfect business. Our days are filled with a series of choices. Some are big, some are small, but like it or not, the outcome of these choices ultimately impacts a business and its success.
Since 2009, we’ve followed a people-first business model. Over the years this has manifested itself in different ways, but it is definitely a driving force behind our decisions.
I like to think of it in terms of 3 T’s:
Take care of our customers. As a tech-agnostic consulting firm, we see and work on a variety of projects. It’s rare that a customer walks in knowing exactly what they want, which is why we walk them through Discovery. We not only want to gain a better understanding of the product, but also want to make sure custom software is the best solution to their problem.
Once we met with a customer whose product had been rejected from the App Store. He worked with a third-party team to partially build the app, and wanted our help finishing it up. We met with him, and learned about his product and what he hoped to do with the app. We estimated the hours – it would have been a pretty big project. Good for business. The thing is, that the customer didn’t really need an iOS app at all.
We had two options: We could give him what he wanted or we could tell him up front why we thought the app wasn’t necessary. One would make us money, the other would save him a ton. Needless to say, we told him why he didn’t need the app.
Take care of our company. Aside from weekly lunches, our office-optional policy, quarterly parties, and other perks, we prioritize finding work our developers enjoy. We hire people who work hard and mesh well with our team. We try to make our office a comfortable place to work, and we care about our developer’s well-being.
In 2012, a client needed some help finishing a project. Collaboration between our developers and theirs went really well. After we finished the project, the client asked to have a couple of our developers work full time from their offices. They offered to pay us a fee to have our developers work for them.
On paper, this seemed like a great opportunity. The customer would get the developers they needed, and we’d start making money from the deal. The problem was that our developers weren’t excited. They were sold on the idea of working at Agape Red, not at a different office. Since the decision wasn’t right for our developers, it wasn’t right for our company either. In the end we decided not to take the deal.
Take care of ourselves. It’s easy to get caught up with work, and forget to take time for ourselves. At Agape Red, we focus on professional growth with a weekly book club and Friday afternoon ‘Investment Time’, but we understand that sometimes people just need to get away from the office.
We provide liberal paid vacation and encourage everyone to take advantage of it. We also pay for healthcare, disability, and life insurance. We want our employees to spend time with their families, travel, or just feel comfortable taking a day off to relax. We don’t expect people to work like machines, and we don’t want them to feel like they have to.
Revenue is important, but it can’t be the only thing that drives decision-making. Focus on your customer’s satisfaction, and focus on your employee’s well-being. Put people first to help your company thrive, and help us make the world more a little more awesome.